On our drive down from Jacob Lake to Kanab we were presented with a view of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We could actually discern the series of plateaus that descend from Bryce Canyon (the top “stair” at over 9,000′ elevation). It’s followed by the other vertical drops at the Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs and Chocolate Cliffs. And that staircase-like landscape is how the national monument got its name and this is the best spot to really see and understand why.
We had passed through Kanab in 2016, coming from Zion National Park to Lake Powell, Arizona. The richly-colored vermillion cliffs bordering Highway 89 between Kanab and Page were stunning, and we made a mental note to come back one day. Here we were three years later, finally making Kanab our home base for some red-colored fun!
Kanab is surrounded by the distinctively sculpted sandstone cliffs that define southwestern Utah. It’s on the second “step” up (the Vermillion Cliffs layer) in the five-step Grand Staircase. So here’s a warning that you’ll definitely be seeing red by the end of this post!
Steve has managed to get me hooked on the old “Gunsmoke” TV series, as he has been for years. One of the first things we did in Kanab was check out what’s left of the old movie sets from the show. Much of it was filmed in Kanab, and the remaining decrepit structures are on private land along Johnson Canyon Road. Now we both yell “Been there!” when we see one of the structures on the show’s reruns. Yes, this is what our life has come to…
We actually included a stop at the real Dodge City during our journey through Kansas. All of the original main cast members are deceased now except for “Newly O’Brien” (Buck Taylor, now over 80 years old), who was occasionally returning to Dodge City to meet fans at that time.
There were other interesting things along Johnson Canyon that we enjoyed during our drive:
Hitting the trails –
Hiking is only one of the many adventures to be experienced in Kanab, but it was our main focus. You see, trekking the red rocks of southern Utah is pretty much the pinnacle of hiking, in our humble opinion. Steve was excited to try some of them with his new Oboz boots, which he really likes. But we’ll have to come back to explore even more of this beautiful area!
If you have time for only one hike while in Kanab, the Squaw Trail might be a good choice. It was rated easy, but since we climbed 800′ in 1.5 miles with some steep areas we would rate it as moderate. Ascending up the switchbacks, we were rewarded with expansive views of Kanab and up-close encounters with the red rocks:
It turned out not to be John and Pam’s Jeep, but they’d been here a couple of weeks before and suggested we hike the Cottonwood Trail. It’s a 9-mile out and back trek that they couldn’t complete because of bad weather and high water, but we were able to complete it and can report to our hiking buddies that it was a winner!
There were many splashes of color along the way:
But it was the meadow of desert sunflowers at the end of the 4.5-mile trail that made us gasp:
The Mansard Trail was a 5-mile round trip that ended at an alcove near high cliffs:
We followed the same trail that John and Pam had earlier, here is their excellent description of the hike and I’ll just include a few of my photos:
We saw a creepy black spider and many rainbow-colored stink bugs, ewww!
Staring at the cliff and coatings that looked like dripping paint and yellow stripes made us walk right by the alcove:
We backtracked and looked up – we had finally found it!
There were writings and petroglyphs on the floor, which is uncommon. We had only seen similar ones at Hueco Tanks State Park in Texas:
It turned out our planned one week stay wasn’t long enough and we extended a couple extra days to explore the area as fully as we could. But still there are more trails to be had, another list for our future revisits.
And if you think you’ve seen “red” on this post, wait till you see what’s up next!
Next up: Rugged and remote red rocks!